Bea on Columbia
Gene Nora heard about the research program going on at the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque while serving on the faculty at the University of Oklahoma. She wrote a letter to Dr. Lovelace outlining her aviation and educational background, asking to be accepted. Lovelace wrote back "come on". She and Janey Hart, who came in the same way and was an inspirational partner, were the 24th and 25th women to undergo the physical exams. Though Gene Nora (pronounced Janora) was told she passed the tests, she never met Dr. Lovelace, nor was she told that she was in an astronaut training program, and so always considered it research.
Since a new semester was starting at the same time as the continuing testing (fall of 1961), Gene Nora quit her job to participate in Phase II. Only a few days later the program was discontinued, and Gene Nora took a temporary job as a flight instructor until in 1962 she captured what at the time was (to her) the best possible job in aviation for a female. She flew as a sales demonstration pilot for the Beechcraft factory in Wichita, Kansas. Initially she flew as one of the Three Musketeers, an introductory formation flight through the contiguous forty-eight States over a ninety day period. The job evolved into additional ratings and flying the entire Beechcraft line. She met her husband Bob at Beechcraft, and they eventually migrated west to set up a Beechcraft dealership in Boise, Idaho.
Through the years, Gene Nora has remained active in aviation serving on the Boise Airport Commission, as President of the Ninety-Nines, on various community boards, participating in the founding of two aviation museums, and, raising two children. The Jessens own an active fixed base operation in Boise, Idaho; and, of course, they continue to fly.
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